TYLER (KYTX) - It's a first. Working Americans are now the face of food stamps.
The majority of the program used to be made up of children and the elderly, but slow economic recovery is adding lots of new faces to the system.
The program has grown so much in general. Right now one in seven Americans receive food stamps. The big question is, why are so many working Americans, making up the majority?
On the weekends Shawnte Williams gets to play all day with her four kids, the loves of her life.
"We have fun at my house!" she says.
However, the fun ends each Monday, and it's back to work, back to bills, and back to the tough grind of being a single parent support system.
"I'm a certified medical assistant for Trinity Children's Clinic," Williams says.
Even a great job doesn't cut it these days.
"We do work hard and the little money we do make we have to pick. Do we want to buy our groceries for our kids? Do we want to have our lights on? Do we want to have gas in our cars?" Williams says.
Williams has relied on food stamps to help feed her family for about two years now. She's not surprised the majority of recipients are working people just like her.
"Lots of people are getting out there and trying to work, and trying to take care of their kids and applying for it."
Some experts say the new government numbers show low wages and income inequality have pushed middle class workers into the lower class. Slow economic recovery doesn't help either.
"Light bills, gas bills, everything is going up, gas for cars," Williams says.
She says the food stamps should go first to struggling working Americans, instead of the people she says abuse the system.
"The people who are actually sitting at home or selling their food stamps, trying to make money off of it when they could be working," she says.
She's casting aside frustration for the sake of her kids.
"I try to be positive, show them what it's like to get up every morning, work."
She'll keep doing that for as long as it takes. Williams is hoping for changes in the system that will cut down on abuse, lower unemployment, and create more equal wages.
Technology and outsourcing also may be to blame. Lots of good paying jobs in areas like manufacturing have disappeared, forcing educated people into much lower paying jobs.
Economists say without wage growth, we won't get any closer to income equality, which means food stamp use probably won't die down any time soon. The prediction is that working Americans will continue to need the system.